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Surfurs - Southern California Surf Dog Club

by Neil Pearlberg

Photos by Dale Porter

peter and nani

On many of California’s surf breaks it is no longer a passing fancy that you may see man’s best friend surfing tandem with his guardian.
If you think about it, our canine compadres are likely blessed with superior balance with their lower center of gravity and four legs that would make surfing less challenging than for their two-legged guardians.

Though man first took to surfing waves here on the U.S. mainland in 1885, man has long been accompanied by his dog on long ocean voyages, dating back to the days of Christopher Columbus.

Fast forward to 2009. Meet Peter Noll, himself an accomplished architect and surfer. He fell in love with surfing in 1963 when his family relocated from Massachusetts to San Diego. He then became even more enamored when Nani, his Bernese Mountain Dog, joined him in the ocean, sat on his surfboard, and coasted all the way into shore on her first attempt. At that point, Nani was also hooked.

Nani’s love of surfing in the warm turquoise waters of San Diego  inspired Noll to rally others with surf-loving canines to create the Southern California Surf Dogs (www.socalsurfdogs.com). The So Cal Surf Dogs Club promotes safe dog surfing and fun for dog owners and their surf dogs (or SurFURS), to support the mental and physical health of both,  It is mandatory for all furry participants to don canine life jackets, so they will at no time be placed in any danger

During weekends at dog beaches, Noll takes note of the size of the swell and the ability of the water-loving dogs who are giving canine surfing a try for the first time. He must guide each dog safely in the surf and then time the release of the board to catch the perfect wave so that the dog can glide to shore. Once that tail starts wagging when they hit the shore, he knows he has a happy “SurFUR.”

surf dogs

The original canine members of the surf club, answering to the names of Antonio, Dozer, Guido, Kalani, King, and Kong, to name a few, have been posted on billboards and calendars, and watched by millions all over the world on videos and television newscasts. 

Many were part of the four-legged pack to set not one, but three, Guinness World Records for most dogs on a surfboard (17), most dogs with a surfer (8), and most dogs with a two-person tandem (8) at Imperial Beach in San Diego. 

Noll has enjoyed posting world records, but the group’s role in helping to raise thousands of dollars for various pet and people charities is where he takes the most pride.

Each summer, many of the So Cal Surf Dogs participate in the Loews Coronado Bay Resort (San Diego) Surf Dog Competition. The competition unleashes a host of friendly fun and raises funds for animal charities. Whether catching a wave with a furry friend or seeking fun on the beach with friends and family, the attendees can expect to see much skill, and laughter as they take to the glorious Imperial Beach.


Wherever the ocean touches the land in the U.S., dogs of all breeds, shapes and sizes can be seen “Hangin’ Ten” on the front of their board, gliding across the waves like a low-flying pelican seeking its next meal.

There are few sports in which man can include his canine friend. The sport of surfing is blessed in that in enables us to share the waves, the fun, and all that the ocean has to offer. It is just one more way our dogs continue to give us telltale signs to enjoy everything life has to offer.


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